Workers at the Coca-Cola bottling plant in Edmonton, north London, struck over pay on Wednesday and Thursday of last week—and are set to walk out again on the same days this week.
Bill, a striking worker, spoke to Socialist Worker on the picket line.
“The boss of this plant is a monster,” he said. “If he had his way he wouldn’t even recognise our union.
“Throughout the world Coca-Cola’s dealings with unions are scandalous. Now they’re trying to break the union inside this factory.
“They put our Unite union down as if it’s an invading force, stirring up trouble. But we, standing here, are the union.
“We had an extremely high vote for strike action—eight to one. It took your breath away. They’re all out—the whole of this shift.
“People are angry at the way they cut our numbers and work us harder.
“The best part of half a million bottles go through my area on a 12-hour shift. Between us the workers here produce millions of bottles.
“Yet we take home about £120 for a shift—about £10 an hour. We do a shift pattern from hell to get that. The plant runs 24/7. Our lives are built around these shifts.
“In the high period, when summer or Christmas are coming up, we go onto our long hours shift pattern, where we work 168 hours in three weeks.
“In a shift you do 12 hours, and you get four breaks—two 15 minute breaks and two half hour breaks.
“It’s a long shift.
“And it’s very, very stressful, because if you make one mistake you’re in the office being disciplined.
“We’ve had people sacked recently for making the most meagre of mistakes.
“The last woman who went left some cases on the line of a previous product when the next product was coming down, so the wrong product was packed onto the pallet. And she was sacked just for that.
“You can make mistakes easy as anything, and you’re penalised massively.
“The stress levels in there… on a 12-hour shift, at 4 o’clock in the morning on your fourth night, you’re zonked—you don’t know who you are. You’re just so tired.
“You’re jetlagged all the time.
“We go through all this and we accept it. But what we’re not going to accept is bad pay increases any more.
“We’ve done it year after year—1 percent, 2 percent… we’ve had enough. We want a decent pay rise.
“Coca-Cola makes billions in profits. They’ve got the money—they just don’t want to hand it over.”
What's behind the Coca-Cola dispute?
- The workers are demanding a cost-of-living pay rise. “We’re not greedy people who are after loads of money and unfair demands,” Brett Dupuy, a Unite rep at the plant told Socialist Worker. “Coca-Cola makes an obscene amount of profit. They should be able to give a rise of inflation at least.”
- Unite union members walked out for six hours, from 3pm to 9pm, on Wednesday and Thursday of last week, shutting down all production at the Coca-Cola plant in Nobel Road, Edmonton.
- Unite has called more walkouts over the next few weeks: Wednesday 22 and Thursday 23 September, Wednesday 29 and Thursday 30 September.
- The action will see the plant produce an estimated one million fewer bottles of the drinks for each week it continues.
Names have been changed to protect workers. Send messages of support to firstname.lastname@example.org